The Power of Hate and Fear


W.J. Astore

Who are we supposed to hate today?  The Russians for allegedly throwing the presidential election?  The Chinese for allegedly stealing our jobs?  The North Koreans for allegedly planning our nuclear destruction?  The Iranians for allegedly working to acquire nuclear weapons?  The “axis of evil” for being, well, evil?

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously told Americans that the only thing they had to fear is fear itself.  However, recent American presidents have encouraged us to fear everything.  Let’s not forget the stoking of fear by people like Condoleezza Rice and her image of a smoking gun morphing into a nuclear mushroom cloud.  That image helped to propel America into a disastrous war in Iraq in 2003 that festers still.

One of the most powerful scenes I’ve seen in any movie came in the adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.  The film version begins with the “two minutes of hate” directed against various (imagined) enemies.  Check it out.  Doubleplusgood!

Especially disturbing is the rant against Goldstein, the enemy within.  Here I think of Donald Trump claiming that the Democrats are anti-military for not rubberstamping his budget, a dishonest as well as ridiculous charge, since both parties support high military spending.  Indeed, high Pentagon spending is the one bipartisan area of agreement in Congress.

The top tweet is typical of Trump: Accusing Democrats of not caring about “our” troops

This is among the biggest problems in America today: the stoking of hate against the enemy within, e.g. “illegal” immigrants (rapists, gang members, killers, according to our president), Democrats who allegedly don’t support our military, rival politicians who should be “locked up,” protesters who should be punched and kicked and otherwise silenced, high school students who are dismissed as phonies and professional actors, and on and on.

Irrational fear is nothing new to America, of course.  Consider the fear of communism that produced red scares after World Wars I and II.  Consider how fears of the spread of communism led to criminal intervention in Southeast Asia and the death of millions of people there.  Massive bombing, free-fire artillery zones, the profligate use of defoliants like Agent Orange, the prolongation of war without any regard for the suffering of peoples in SE Asia: that behavior constituted a crime of murderous intensity that was in part driven by hatred and fear.

And when hatred and fear are linked to tribalism and a xenophobic form of patriotism, murderous war becomes almost a certainty.  When the zealots of hate are screaming for blood, it’s very hard to hear appeals for peace based on compassion and reason.

Anger, fear, aggression: that way leads to the dark side, as Yoda, that Jedi master, warned us.  Hate too, Yoda says, must be resisted, lest one be consumed by it.  Sure, he’s just an imaginary character in the “Star Wars” universe, but that doesn’t negate the truth of his message.

God is love, the Christian religion says.  Why then are we so open to hate and fear?

17 thoughts on “The Power of Hate and Fear

  1. The National Security Act of 1947 mandated a major reorganization of the foreign policy and military establishments of the U.S. Government. The act created many of the institutions that Presidents found useful when formulating and implementing foreign policy, including the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense. Also established by the Act: National Security Resources Board, National Military Establishment “shall consist of the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of the Air Force , together with all other agencies created under title II of this Act.”

    The impact of this Act included some major changes:
    >A paramount place for security in government affairs, which naturally depends upon the availability of enemies, or their arbitrary designation. This has lead to a continuing domestic propaganda concerning US enemies, a “stoking of hate,” with Russia being a favorite target.
    >A full-time army, which has no basis in the Constitution.* The Army is a key player in the various wars against designated “hateful” national enemies, weak “regimes” which offer little threat to the U.S. even when attacked. Countries can be attacked without an army, but an army is necessary to defeat and occupy the opponent, even for decades. In fact countries defeated long ago are still occupied, including Germany, Japan and Korea.

    Article I, Section 8: “. . .To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; . . . To provide and maintain a Navy;”


    1. Following your comments over at the Moon of Alabama blog, Don. Keep up the good work. I absolutely loved the stuff you posted about retired U.S. Army Colonel Pat Lang’s blog Sic Semper Tyrannis. You really outdid yourself with this one on the thread entitled “Syria – Timelines Of ‘Gas Attacks’ Follow A Similar Scheme (Updated)”:

      Pat Lang: “Animal” Assad? Our beloved president has once again been watching a bit too much TV news. Does it ever occur to him to pick up the secure phone and call the watch officer at CIA, NSA or wherever and ask if they think the news reports are correct?”

      Don Bacon: “Sure, Pat. If we can’t trust the Intelligence Community, then whom can we trust? Our own lyin’ eyes?”

      — (posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 8, 2018 2:09:25 PM | 76)

      Perfect. I used to post comments, and some of my poetry, on SST, and the site proprietor pretty much liked my stuff until I quoted my Depression-Era/WWII-Generation mother to the effect that “military intelligence is to intelligence as military music is to music.” That one got me banned from Mr Lang’s blog. He accused me of “mocking” him. I responded by saying that I had mocked the idea of military intelligence, not him personally, since he had retired from that business and I assumed that, as a civilian, he could now resume thinking like an honest and rational human being instead of the usual kiss-up/kick-down career military bootlicker. In support of my opinion, I quoted to him General Smedley Butler’s statement that he “never had an original thought until [he] got out of the Marine Corps.” Mr Lang remained unmoved by my comments.

      Some time later, I mentioned my banning from SST to the late retired Navy Commander Jeff Huber who often wrote articles for Mr Huber told me that I should take that banning as a badge of honor. I relayed these comments to Pat Lang via e-mail and he sneeringly responded by calling Jeff Huber “a lefty loser.” Now, any marginally sentient carbon-based life form who thinks that anything approaching a “left” actually exists in America — other than possibly Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, or Noam Chomsky — knows very little about either crypto-Fascist America or what the rest of the world would call a “Left.” Genghis Khan and Atilla the Hun each calling the other a “lefty” wouldn’t make either of them any such thing. I actually don’t disagree all that much with what Mr Lang writes. I simply do not think that the United States needs a standing army or Can’t-Identify-Anything “intelligence community” and he disagrees. Too bad for him.

      Anyway and again, I really loved that apt rejoinder of yours and plan to save it for future reference. Zingers like that deserve their proper place of honor among those who believe their own eyes and not what leaks out — like some noxious flatulent gas — from anonymous sources within the bowels of America’s bureaucratic “intelligence community.” Well done.


      1. Thanks, Michael.
        Regarding Pat Lang, like most things in life, and most people (myself included), Lang is a mixed message. A complex being. So I cut him a little slack (when I’m not criticizing him).

        As a young officer, Lang served in Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, a horrid chapter in that horrid war. It must have had an effect on him. Had to have. I tend to be charitable on that, because I was in-country early too. Brainwashed, young and stupid. Didn’t do anything regretful, but I was a “hawk.” (VN converted me to a dove. I was one of the two doves in the C&GSC class of 1400 field grades later on at Leavenworth. . . proud of that). I brought up Vietnam’s Phoenix service once on SST, and Lang said they were merely following the orders of the South Vietnam president. Sure. Compensating.

        On the other side of the coin, apparently Lang served honorably at the start of the horrid Iraq War. Quotes here:


  2. Well, yes, it’s hard to keep track of who we should be hating this week isn’t it? Saudi Arabia supplied the terrorists and the money that made 9/11 happen, yet it’s Syria and Yemen who get targeted by the “Muslim ban” and the president goes there and does the “sword dance.” MBS pledges to help the Yemeni people while he calls airstrikes down on their heads. I’m currently teaching 1984 to high school students and the number of real life connections outpaces our ability to talk about them all.

    “A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill…seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another…”

    Once the hate is stoked by fear, it is easy to redirect it. It serves purposes of tyrants to keep people on edge, their hatred at the ready.

    Sometimes prescribed literature seems distant and irrelevant to teens. I think it’s fair to say that recent events (including the Oscar for the documentary, Icarus) have made 1984 seem “ripped from the headlines.”


    1. Good for you, Katie Stuart. In my opinion, 1984 makes for required reading in any high school English, History, Journalism, or Political Science (“Civics”) curriculum. Especially the book-within-a-book The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism (“Ignorance is Strenth” and “War is Peace”) along with the Newspeak Appendix. Speaking of which:

      This morning I came across the following quote from an article on, Moscow calls ‘chemical attack’ in Douma ‘fake news,’ warns against Syrian intervention:

      “Meanwhile, the US administration appears to be already considering a potential response to the alleged chemical incident. “We’ll be reviewing the situation later today,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CBS, commenting on a possible response. He refused to outline any particular options that are being considered, but said that Donald Trump and his national security team will be reviewing “all different alternatives.” [emphasis added]

      I immediately thought of George Orwell and his description of Newspeak as reducing language to deliberate meaninglessness as a means of preventing unorthodox — i.e., “orignal,” “independent,” and therefore “dangerous” — thinking. Now, if an “alternative” means anything, it means something different from other things. So, what need does the noun have for a redundant adjective preceding it? What, for example, would Mr Mnuchin call no choice at all? An “identical alternative”? And what would we call someone who spews forth verbose nonsense like this?

      From the Newspeak Appendix to 1984:

      “Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centres at all. This aim was frankly admitted in the Newspeak word duckspeak meaning “to quack like a duck.” Like various other words in the B vocabulary, duckspeak was ambivalent in meaning. Provided that the opinions which were quacked out were orthodox ones, it implied nothing but praise, and when the Times referred to one of the orators of the Party as a doubleplusgood duckspeaker it was paying a warm and valued compliment.”

      Not wishing to insult ducks and their quacking, I would go even further and call Mr Mnuchin a “throatspeaker” for, obviously, the stream of word-like noises pouring from between his flapping lips issued directly from his vocal chords and had made no acquaintance with his brain in transit. And this guy manages the nation’s currency!

      The British literary critic and semanticist, I. A. Richards had a technical-sounding name for such human noise-making machines. He called them psittacists, or “accomplished parrots.” You know, like when you train a parrot to emit noises that sound like “Polly want a cracker,” by giving the bird a cracker as a reward for a successful performance. But if you should give the bird a peanut or sesame seed for its reward, does anyone expect that the bird would spit out the offering and snarl: “Damn it! I said I wanted a cracker!” I thought about Orwell and Richards when I read the quote from the nation’s Treasury Secretary. I would have loved it had someone responded to him by snarling: “Damn it! We don’t want a different alternative. We want the same one we always get!”

      A doubleplusgood throatspeaker, just like his boss, the Orange Orangutan with the dead yellow raccoon on his head: the same alternative to You-Know-Her who thought the American public wanted a “Democrat” even further to the right than the rookie “Republican” tv-gameshow host who ran to her left and won before doing the “Obama Shuffle,” lurching back to the far right one minute after inauguration. Why can’t we Americans have a “leader” who for once just honestly tells us that we have “no alternative”? At least then we would know that they had absorbed something useful from high-school English, like the difference in meaning between nouns that require no adjectives in front of them and those that do.

      With Mr Mnuchin at the printing press, I look forward to a rather substantial devalutation of the U.S. dollar very soon.


      1. Mnuchin was a Hollywood producer of sorts; he appeared as a non-speaking extra in a movie I watched about a year ago (can’t recall the film). And that’s what he should remain: a non-speaking extra.

        His actress wife is a piece of work, tweeting about all the fancy designer labels she so proudly wears. They were made for each other.


    2. @KS
      The “Muslim Ban” was a wrongful term used my the MSM. It really was a short-term suspension of immigration of people from countries the US is at war with, in one form or another, to enhance US national security. It has been quite normal and expected to do that sort of thing in the past, but since it was Trump it was treated differently.
      It had nothing to do with hating Muslims. It did not affect the largest Muslim nations: Indonesia, India and Pakistan, nor Saudi as you highlight.
      It is a fact that the US for some time has been at war only with Muslim nations which is the basic problem. That involves “the stoking of hate” as well as the massive death, injury and displacement of Muslims, the 9/11 legacy.


  3. Hate and Fear, is what we humans call these emotions.

    National Geographic in their January 2018 magazine has an excellent article on the Science of Good and Evil. >> Researchers have found that the way our brains are wired can affect how much empathy we feel toward others—a key measuring stick of good and evil. “We are the most social species on Earth, and we are also the most violent species on Earth,” says Jean Decety, a social neurologist at the University of Chicago. “We have two faces because these two faces were important to survival.”

    People in power: The Steroid Capitalists of Wall Street, certainly our Military-Industrial Complex and their political puppets are profoundly indifferent to human suffering. If there is any empathy it is limited to “thoughts and prayers”.

    It would seem hate, fear, empathy and what we we call good and evil are hardwired into us. If you watch programs on nature, you will see different lion prides staking out territories and fighting over them. One lion pride does not hate the other but a threat is perceived and acted upon. Chimpanzees, our close animal relative have territories. If a new alpha male lion dethrones the old alpha male, the new alpha male will kill the old alpha males cubs. Predators battle predators for control of a territory.

    The story of humanity is a story of war and conquest. Ancient monuments extol the virtues and bravery of the conquerors. Religion comes into play – God or Gods are on our side. Even today – post enlightenment – the vast majority of our public monuments have some military theme. There are not a lot of monuments to inventors or monuments that are inscribed with the word – Peace.

    You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. Anne Lamott


  4. Poor ol God! Everyone is claiming to act as if he was their personal friend implying that by being your friend he as against your enemies. And as he is supposedly the being with all power, then the implication is that you are blessed and undefeatable. What if he is indifferent to all those plea’s. Personally, I think he set up a system and since then has moved on to other adventures leaving us to muddle around.

    And muddle we do!

    Thomas Lunde


  5. “We’re an empire now …” — Deputy Dubya Bush’s “brain” (namely, Carl “Turd Blossom” Rove)

    “Let them hate (me) just so long as they fear (me)” — Emperor Caligula

    Yes, I think that puts things in their proper perspective, especially as regards the U. S. contribution to the twenty-first century so far. Pure, distilled decadence.


  6. From the film Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013):

    Dr. McCoy [to Captain Kirk who has just turned command of the Enterprise over to helmsman Sulu]:

    “Jim! You just sat that man down at a high stakes poker game with no cards and told him to bluff”:

    Captain Kirk [hugely annoyed]: “Enough with the metaphors. That’s an order.”

    Or, stated in other sequences of sloppy synonyms:

    Optional Alternative Choices

    Nothing off the table
    Something on the floor
    Metaphor and fable
    Adding up to war

    Bomber John and Lindsey
    Graham and McCain
    War for them is whimsy
    Others get the pain

    So at least in theory
    Goes the latest “plan”
    Two, at least, are leery:
    Russia and Iran

    China, too, ain’t buying
    What we’ve got to sell:
    More bad debt and crying
    On the road to Hell

    Waffle Waitress Nikki
    Threatens the UN:
    “We will have our quickie!
    Any where or when!”

    Deadbeat country failing
    Fighting just to lose
    “Sick” or “ill” or “ailing”:
    “Options” we can “choose”

    “Alternate” provisions
    “On the table” sit:
    All scream, “More divisions!”
    Same old sorry shit.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2018


    1. Yes. I’m so tired of hearing “all options are on the table.” Does that mean we’re thinking of obliterating Syria or Iran or North Korea with nuclear weapons? Or maybe use our extensive stocks of poison gas and nerve agents? Or maybe just our “conventional” weapons like MOAB, cluster munitions, napalm, and depleted uranium?


  7. Oh, No! Not the dreaded CHEMICALS again! I mean, Donald Trump (2018) minus Bubba Bill Clinton (1998) equals 20 years of this same discredited drivel. Seems like I remember deconstructing this duplicitous dreary dodge in verse thirteen years ago. Just update the Muslim and American names and you get:

    Boobie Precursor Chemicals
    (from Fernando Po, U.S.A., America’s post-literate retreat to Plato’s Cave)

    We heard complaints galore about
    Saddam Hussein’s grim views
    We heard he planned to strike at us
    We heard it in our news
    The only thing we didn’t know
    Was what he planned to use

    He didn’t have a plane that flew
    He didn’t have a boat
    He had no army worth a damn
    He maybe had a goat
    But still we heard the lurid tales
    Of plans he had afloat

    We only heard these stories, though,
    From our own government
    Our Yellow Press, of course, signed on
    To agitate and vent
    No other nation in the world
    Knew what the hell we meant

    We saw through every thing he did
    He lived within a glass
    We had inspectors prowl about
    Like ants upon his ass
    And still the only thing he passed
    Our CIA was gas

    But still a lack of evidence
    Of weapons in the skies
    Dissuaded no one our team
    From telling packs of lies
    If we found nothing on the ground
    We’d find it in his eyes

    But still he tried to play around
    He wiggled and he squirmed
    Which we interpreted as proof
    That his dark plans had firmed
    We saw in this a sign that our
    Suspicions were confirmed

    Our satellites had photos of
    Some trucks upon the ground
    Which one supposes is the place
    Where trucks are often found
    But Colin Powell said this showed
    Some “chemicals” around

    And not just that, this spokesman claimed,
    But trucks implied still worse
    They meant Saddam could move some stuff
    And use it to rehearse
    A dastardly attack or two
    Upon the universe

    This may sound histrionic and
    It even might sound mad
    But such insane proposals have
    Some precedents as bad
    Like each time that the USA
    Finds what no one has had

    It happened not too long ago
    In Madame Albright’s room
    Where midnight séances revealed
    Some Prozac in Khartoum
    Which meant that our cruise missiles had
    To make the pills go “boom”

    This raised some eyebrows, so to speak,
    Since those securely placed
    Asked what in Africa deserved
    To have itself effaced
    Explosively by surplus weapons
    No one else would waste

    The answer came, as one would guess,
    In euphemistic slang:
    The old word “pharmaceutical”
    Now means a deadly fang;
    A Weapon of Destructive Mass
    Which we must make go “bang”

    But some had doubts, as skeptics would,
    About these threadbare claims
    They pointed to a history of
    Of underhanded aims
    And said that the attack just smelled
    Of dying Empire games

    No one had seen much proof about
    The rumored, deadly stash
    But that did not deter the ones
    Who claimed with bald panache
    That evidence of nothing proved
    The presence of the cache

    Then someone clever at such things
    Devised a paradigm:
    Some smaller words that sound the same
    Make larger ones that rhyme
    In much the same way as ten cents
    Add up to make a dime

    Thus Hydrogen and Oxygen
    Combined in ratio
    Produce a simple molecule:
    Two “H”s and one “0”
    Or, “water” to those others who
    Their chemistry don’t know

    Thus one could argue plausibly
    (In the subjunctive mood)
    That these “precursor chemicals”
    If placed into our food
    Could then combine to do us harm
    (Or else do us some good)

    As Tweedledee once put the case
    In daffy logic fuzz:
    It would be if it were so; and
    It might be if it was;
    But as it isn’t, then it ain’t.
    So this means that because …

    Or as old Bilbo Baggins at
    His birthday bash observed,
    While Hobbits partied hard and as
    The cake and ale were served:
    He liked less than a half of them
    As well as they deserved.

    Or as the teacher said unto
    The student supplicant
    Who offered lame excuses and
    Got this mood-shifting rant:
    “You would have if you could have; but
    You didn’t, so you can’t!”

    Yes, any fool can argue that
    If-then leads to then-could
    And, yes, the dominoes could fall
    Like lifeless blocks of wood
    But that’s to beg the question of
    Just why or if they should

    Yes, one can make a larger thing
    From smaller things, that’s true
    And, yes, some hydrocarbons can
    Take life from lifeless stew
    (Just add some electricity
    To energize the brew)

    But arguing that someone might
    Have done a thing — or could –-
    Compels no one to reach for the
    Conclusion that they would
    Until they do, they don’t; and so
    Let’s get that understood

    But Boobies don’t like new at all
    They’d rather keep the old
    No matter how the hand’s gone bad
    They’d rather stay than fold
    They bet the farm and lost
    So now they live out in the cold

    With noses pressed against the glass
    They look in from outside
    And could come in the open door
    But for their wounded pride
    Which makes them easy marks for those
    Who’d take them for a ride

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2005

    In other words: “WOLF! WOLF! WOLF! WOLF! WOLF!” (and in case you missed it) “WOLF!” Or so the little boy cried.


  8. A simple question: Why are Americans so insecure?

    So insecure as to lean on boasting, to take up the enemy idea so easily (Iran) and believe an ethnic-cleansing country that places religion at the top of identity (Israel) is just like us even as it openly defies liberty and justice for all?

    A person secure in him or herself cannot be a staring pawn as in “1984”. A true individual, which appears to be the ideal American in the eyes of Americans, particularly conservatives, does not fear what is presented to be feared and needs no personal weaponry to feel empowered.

    Moreover, every one of us has been reared in a sea of propaganda from businesses large and small presenting fantasies to sell products. There should be no wonder that everyone is cynical, as a matter of personal pride. There is no greater crime in America than to be a sucker; to be innocent, naive.

    To others in the world, our arrogance and pride are insufferable. A capable person has no need of self-aggrandizement, but our Big Man is nothing but boast, a shell of a man, really a child, sensitive to every slight.

    How is it for all our superpower might, the American character is so insecure right up to the top?


    1. A partial answer: Exactly because so many Americans are truly powerless. So many of us are overwhelmed by debt, whether from credit cards or student loans or medical bills or what-have-you. So many of us are caught in dead-end jobs. So many of us have no say in how our government is being run, whether at local, state, or federal levels. Personal insecurity breeds uncertainty and fear, and this can be then be channeled and directed against alleged foreign enemies.

      An engaged and empowered people is both a more confident and less easily coerced people. But a disengaged and largely powerless people — dealing with daily uncertainty and personal insecurity — they are far more easily pushed around or aside, or manipulated into supporting what certain elites want, such as war.


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