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The Anti-Muslim Mindset Shows the Power of Indoctrination and Propaganda


According to an article in the New York Times this week, anonymous letters were recently sent to people in different communities in England saying that April 3 would be “Punish a Muslim Day.” The letter announced that points would be rewarded for acts of violence against Muslims, including 500 points for murdering a Muslim and 1,000 points for bombing a mosque.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the anti-Muslim mindset also afflicts many Americans, especially among the right-wing or conservative movement.

What most, if not all, of these people fail to recognize is that their anti-Muslim mindsets are the result of indoctrination and propaganda, no different in principle from the type of indoctrination and propaganda that communist regimes, like the one in North Korea, use to mold the mindsets of their citizenry.

Ever since the 9/11 attacks, I have received emails from people telling me that the Muslims are at war with us. They cite the crusades. They talk about the caliphates. They cite parts of the Koran that supposedly buttress their case. The Muslims are coming to get us, they tell me. We are at war. (They say the same thing about illegal immigrants and drug dealers.)

I always respond with an admonition. I tell them: Don’t go out and start killing Muslims here in America because the state will indict you on murder charges. When you appear before the judge and request a dismissal of the charges on the ground that we are at war and that it is legal to kill the enemy in wartime, the judge will summarily dismiss your request. You will be convicted of murder and you will be punished accordingly.

Hopefully, I have dissuaded these correspondents not to move their anti-Muslim sentiment into the world of violence against Muslims. But as we all know, there have been instances of Americans violently attacking Muslims here in the United States. As far as I know, the attackers have all been prosecuted for assault, murder, or other criminal offenses.

How can we tell that Americans who hold an anti-Muslim sentiment are the victims of indoctrination and propaganda?

It’s easy. Prior to the end of the Cold War in 1989, none of these anti-Muslim Americans had an anti-Muslim mindset. Their anti-Muslim mindsets did not arrive until after the 9/11 attacks.

Now, if the Muslims have been coming to get us since 1492, as the anti-Muslim crowd never tires of telling us, wouldn’t it stand to reason that Americans would express at least some concern in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s that the Muslims were coming to get us? Wouldn’t you expect Americans during those decades to be warning us about the caliphates and the Koran?

Yet, not a peep. Not one iota of concern for the so-called Muslim threat from anyone during those four decades.

Why is that? Because throughout those four decades, the official enemy was communism, not Islam or Muslims (or even terrorists). That’s what Americans were afraid of, thanks to the dire warnings, principally from the Pentagon and the CIA, that the Reds (rather than the Muslims) were coming to get us.

The North Korean communists were never going to stop with just unifying Korea, U.S. officials said. If the U.S. government didn’t intervene in Korea’s civil war, Americans were told, the Reds would be at America’s doorstep before long.

If the U.S. government didn’t invade Vietnam and replace the French Empire, the dominoes would begin falling to the communists, with the final big domino being the United States.

Cuba was a communist dagger pointed at America’s neck from only 90 miles away. There was no way that the United States would stand if Cuba’s communist regime was permitted to remain in existence.

The Reds were also in Iran, Guatemala, Chile, and Grenada, which, the Pentagon and the CIA maintained, necessitated coups and destruction of democratic systems to prevent the United States from going Red.

Of course, there was Russia and China, the two big commie nation-states, both of which, Americans were repeatedly told, were monolithic and omnipotent and hell bent on conquering the United States. Peaceful coexistence with the Red world was impossible. This was a war to the finish, they said.

Oh, let’s not forget that the communists had already infiltrated American society, as evidenced by the Reds in the civil-rights movement (including Martin Luther King), Hollywood, the Army, the State Department, and even under people’s beds.

That was the power of indoctrination and propaganda throughout the Cold War. For more than four decades, people’s minds revolved around the commies and how they were coming to get us.

Of course, hardly anyone believed that his anti-communist fear was the product of indoctrination and propaganda. Most everyone was convinced that his fear that the Reds were coming to get us was entirely rational and the result of analytical, independent thinking.

Through it all, not a peep about the Muslims, Islam, the Koran, caliphates, or 1492 (except for Columbus’s discovery of America).

In fact, when it was the Soviet Union doing the occupying of Afghanistan, Americans cheered when the U.S. government was supporting extremist Muslims, including Osama bin Laden, who were trying to rid Afghanistan of a foreign occupier. Since those extremist Muslims were partnering with the U.S. government’s anti-communist crusade, they were hailed as heroes and patriots. (Later, of course, these same extremist Muslims would would be vilified as grave threats to U.S. national security for trying to rid Afghanistan of another foreign occupier, this time the U.S. government rather than the Soviet government.)

And then came 1989, the year the Cold War ended. Suddenly and without any warning, people’s official enemy — communism/the Soviet Union (i.e., Russia)/Red China — dissipated.

No problem. The new official enemy quickly became Saddam Hussein, who, ironically, had been an official friend throughout the 1980s. But throughout the 1990s, still nothing about Muslims, Islam, the Koran, caliphates, or 1492. Throughout that decade, the official obsession of the American people became, “Saddam! Saddam! Saddam! We have to do something about Saddam!”

Once again, hardly anyone recognized that his anti-Saddam mindset was the product of official indoctrination and propaganda. The minds of many Americans became imbued with the fear that Saddam was about to unleash a massive barrage of weapons of mass destruction on the United States. By the time that President George W. Bush ordered U.S. troops to invade Iraq, a country that had never attacked the United States, the mindsets of many Americans had been molded into believing that Saddam was about to inflict mushroom clouds on American cities.

That is the power of indoctrination and propaganda.

Throughout the 1990s, the U.S. government enforced against the Iraqi people one of the most brutal sanctions systems in history as a way to get regime change in Iraq. The middle class in Iraq was impoverished and decimated. More important, thousands of Iraqi children began dying in masse from illness and malnutrition because of the sanctions. Many of them came from Muslim families.

U.S. officials didn’t care. In fact, that was their aim — to squeeze the Iraqi people so much that they themselves would get rid of Saddam and replace him with a pro-U.S. dictator, just like the pro-U.S. dictators that the U.S. had installed in Iran, Guatemala, Chile, and elsewhere.

Throughout the 1990s, people were warning that retaliation was inevitable, especially from Muslims who were angry and outraged over the continuous killing of Muslim children in Iraq. Here at FFF, we were among those issuing the warnings. So was Chalmers Johnson in his great pre-9/11 book Blowback.

So were others. In fact, three high UN officials resigned their UN positions in protest against what was being called a U.S.-manufactured genocide against the Iraqi children. Those resignations should have served as a warning of what was to come.

It obviously didn’t help matters any when the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, publicly stated in 1996 that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions was “worth it.” The sanctions went on for another 6 years, until U.S. forces invaded Iraq to achieve the regime change that the deadly and destructive sanctions had failed to achieve.

Ramzi Yousef, one of the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, cited the killing of the Iraqi children at his sentencing hearing, where he labeled U.S. officials as butchers. There were other pre-9/11 terrorist retaliatory attacks — the attack on the USS Cole, not in U.S. waters but instead in Yemen, thousands of miles away from American shores. There were also the terrorist strikes on the U.S. embassies in East Africa.

Thus, when the 9/11 attacks came, it didn’t surprise some of us who saw what was coming. When a government goes abroad and starts killing people, including children, it shouldn’t surprise anyone when adults decide to retaliate, either by striking U.S. troops or U.S. civilians.

But that’s not what many Americans wanted to hear or think about. They didn’t want to hear that their government had been killing innocent people abroad, especially children. That would cloud their good-versus-evil, patriot-versus-traitor narrative. That’s when they fell victim to the indoctrination and propaganda. “We’re innocent! We were just minding our own business. We weren’t doing anything wrong! We are shocked — shocked! — that anyone would want to do us harm! They just hate us for our freedom and values! This is another day that will live in infamy! Now we have to defend ourselves! We need to invade Iraq, which is about to attack us with WMDs!”

It didn’t take long for the anti-terrorism mindset that was inculcated in many Americans after 9/11 to morph into an anti-Muslim mindset. And once the U.S. government used the 9/11 attacks to invade Afghanistan and Iraq and to foment revolutions in Libya and Syria, where the victims have been predominately Muslim, which naturally produced more blowback and retaliation, the anti-Muslim mindset became fortified within all too many Americans (and Brits), whose mindsets simply will not permit them to critically analyze the interventionist actions of their government abroad.

Of course, the most successful indoctrination and propaganda is when the victim doesn’t know he’s been indoctrinated. By that measure, U.S. indoctrination and propaganda are unquestionably among the most effective in the world, perhaps even more so than that carried out in places like North Korea,Russia, China, and Cuba.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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