Rachel Maddow: Scaring White People For Fun And Profit

Rachel Maddow hits another one out of the park with the motivations behind those exploiting this trumped-up "ground zero mosque" debacle and this one sentence pretty well sums it up: "It`s time to scare white people for political profit." RACHEL
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Rachel Maddow hits another one out of the park with the motivations behind those exploiting this trumped-up "ground zero mosque" debacle and this one sentence pretty well sums it up: "It`s time to scare white people for political profit."

RACHEL MADDOW: We begin tonight with what has past becoming the most embarrassing non-Justin Bieber related obsession of the summer of 2010. It is the proposed building of an Islamic community center in downtown New York City.

Now, this story, this talking point maybe, has quickly become a study in political awkwardness for many conservatives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: The imam from the Ground Zero mosque apparently wants Sharia law in America.

The imam of the proposed Ground Zero mosque won`t even denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Now, let me ask you this, would a moderate imam, a peaceful Muslim, employ another imam who told an Arabic language Web site that, quote, "Only the Jews could have perpetrated the 9/11 attack"?

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: Here`s what I mean about awkwardness with this story on the political right. That host that you just saw there in those clips, this guy here, Glenn Beck, before spending this summer in being against the imam and what Mr. Beck calls the Ground Zero mosque, before this became this summer`s scare story talking point, Mr. Beck himself appeared on TV with that very same imam. Not to envy against him but to join him in promoting a moderate vision of Islam.

Former Bush administration official Karen Hughes is having the same kind of awkwardness with her own record in this story. Ms. Hughes has now written a op-ed arguing that the planned cultural center in downtown New York City should be moved further away from the World Trade Center site, calling the plan to build there, especially contentious because, she says, quote, "it goes to the heart of who is to blame for the attacks of September 11th, 2001."

An Islamic community center goes to the heart of who is to blame for the attacks of September 11th? If that does not make any sense to you, rest assured it probably does not make any sense to Karen Hughes either, because Karen Hughes also knows the imam behind the proposed Islamic center she is arguing shouldn`t be built or should at least be moved. In fact, she worked with him on Muslim outreach during the Bush administration. They, in fact, traveled together, side by side, to promote a moderate vision of Islam.

So, how is he such a radical now? What explains the sudden turnaround? What explains the fact that people who have had dealings in the past with this specific person, with the imam behind the proposed Islamic center in downtown Manhattan and know him to be a moderate and who have said so out loud -- what explains why they suddenly have decided that the man is so dangerous?

The difference is that now, this moderate imam`s community center has been declared this month`s new "scare white people" story. So, the truth about the imam doesn`t matter anymore. The truth about the cultural center that they want to build downtown doesn`t matter anymore. It`s time to scare white people for political profit.

And this formula should be pretty familiar by now. We`ve been through episodes of "scare white people" game recently. That was -- one about Van Jones who was smeared on FOX News as a violent convicted felon. Of course, that wasn`t true, but he still lost his job as a White House environmental adviser. Be afraid -- be afraid of policy wonk, dorky guy Van Jones.

Of course, there was also ACORN, a mostly minority community-based organization attacked as a group of criminal thugs based largely on cooked- up deceptively edited videotapes created by right wing activists. Be afraid -- be afraid of the minority community-organizing group made up of poor people.

Now, there was the completely ginned up New Black Panthers episode. White people, be afraid of two whacked out guys who braid their beard hair and hung out outside a polling station on Election Day a year and a half ago. We dug up the old tape so you can be afraid.

And, also, don`t forget Shirley Sherrod, who, thanks to again to video-editing designed to be misleading, was portrayed as a racist Obama administration official -- racist in that she was out to make sure white people didn`t get any help from the Department of Agriculture. White people, be afraid -- be afraid of Shirley Sherrod.

After all of these other very recent chapters in the scare white people political playbook: "A," we should have been ready for it, but, "B," it`s quite clear that it`s time for a new one. So, the Ground Zero mosque controversy was born.

What`s worth noting about all of these different "scare white people" stories is that they`re not really actual news stories. I mean, no real news organizations started running with this story as actual news. The best "scare white people" stories are invented out of whole cloth, from inside the media world, so they can be just the right kind of scary in just the right kind of way in order to drive just the right political consequence.

So, ultimately, if the conservative media drives this to make it big enough, then normal news organizations pick it up, too, sometimes because they`re gilded (ph) into it by conservatives. But no non-FOX, non- conservative media outlet ever starts these things.

The problem is once they get going, some people get caught up in them. Take, for example, poor Laura Ingraham, the conservative talk show host who had the misfortune of talking about the mosque in non-scary terms before everybody got the memo that this was the new "scare white people" story.

Poor Karen Hughes, poor Glenn Beck -- they`ve all been caught doing an about-face on this story since it has been named the new "scare white people" story of the summer. But here`s where it gets really embarrassing for our friends on the right -- it`s not just about having to walk-back their earlier comments that made it seem like they`re now trying to create a controversy where they admit there wasn`t one just a few months ago. It`s that the way, way, way, way right wing really wants this fake controversy to be about more than just this one Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan at that time at the hollowed ground that is the former Burlington coat factory.

The really, really, really, really right wing that`s very excited about this story has latched onto this opportunity to make their draconian anti-Islam message try to resonate around the country. They are trying to start a nationwide protest movement not against just this one Islamic cultural center but against all mosques, against all Muslims. And the problem with that plan is that they`re overplaying their hand. Yes.

So, now, instead of having this narrowly-focused ridiculous outrage over one Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan generated out of whole cloth like these other stories designed to scare white people in advance of elections, instead of that, you got a broad anti-mosque crusade? That`s kind of falling apart, because the pros aren`t in charge of this anymore. This thing got too big, and there were too many people on the very far right wing of American politics ready to run with this in a direction that is sort of off the cliff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAMELA GELLER, CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER: It is a triumph. It`s triumphant. We know that the Islamic pattern is to build giant mosques on cherished sites of conquered lands. We know from research done by SANE that four out of five mosques preach a hate and preach incitement to violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was one of the driving forces behind this story, Pamela Geller of the group Stop Islamization of America, citing statistics live on television. Four out of five mosques preach hate and preach incitement of violence.

Now, as she said, that statistic comes from a group called ironically enough SANE, the Society of Americans for National Existence. That`s one of those groups that was named after a drunk game of Boggle.

This group is famous previously for claiming that black people, black Americans specifically, are inherently violent, and that yes, there was discrimination written into this country`s founding documents, but maybe that`s why this country turned out so great. Think about it.

They also say they want to outlaw Islam. Not symbolically or hyperbolically, they actually want to make it illegal to be a Muslim in America, and they put it in writing. Here`s their proposed resolution to criminalize Islam in this country. I am not making this up. I didn`t PhotoShopped this thing. It`s the real thing.

And without any adults around to hit the brakes, these are the folks who are being allowed to drive the national discussion in this country on the current "scare white people" political tactic.

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