Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Smoke (lots of it, usually from explosions) ...and Mirrors

If you are a leader who plans to do absolutely nothing, whether due to lack of ability or lack of interest, to meaningfully improve upon the quality of life of your citizens, then you must quickly find somewhere to point your finger in order to divert your public’s attention to something you must hope they’ll find more detestable than you. Such a leader must rely heavily on smoke and mirrors in order to parasitically enjoy the benefits of leadership without troubling themselves to shoulder the accompanying responsibility to the population they are leading. This being the case, if you are this leader and you don’t have a sufficiently menacing external enemy pounding against your borders, against which you may rally your people, then you’d better create one within your borders...preferably one who stands a chance at weakening your already precarious position.

In his November 2013 Foreign Policy article The Entrepreneurs of Cynical Sectarianism, Marc Lynch wrote: “More venom is often directed towards moderates within one's own group than towards the putative enemy; as the dwindling cohort of true Egyptian liberals can attest, anyone who might try to seek the middle ground and critique both sides will be viciously shouted down. That, in turn, pushes more and more people to either silently accept or even to vocally repeat the mythologies supporting this mobilized identity, no matter how absurd.

…because a moderate, rational position devoid of vehement rage or passionate extremism is dangerous to leaders who must, at all costs, keep their people angry, emotional, and distracted. Priority number one for such a leader is to impede a population from having enough time to breathe between chaotic outbreaks, to notice that their leader is doing nothing for them. 

Absent a clearly identifiable external foe against which a leader may rally his citizens, and in the name of the fight against which that leader may call upon his people to endure hardships and accept often inhumane conditions, a leader must identify an internal scapegoat against which a majority must unify and endure those same reprehensible circumstances. 

Circumstances conducive to fear, uncertainty, violence, and economic hardship often combine to form the perfect storm of toxic conditions required to facilitate what Lynch describes as identity mobilization. This is because leaders who either fail or blatantly refuse to take effective steps to improve such undesirable circumstances must find or create a handily blamable scapegoat - usually a minority group. These unfortunate groups are an absolutely indispensable commodity to demagogues and dictators alike. They provide just the right outlet for leaders to redirect outrage from their own failures, while also serving as the perfect rally point or common enemy around which an otherwise disjointed community may coalesce. 

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