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The Through-Line

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Memo to the right-wing sociopath factory: FUCK OFF AND DIE.

Almost thirteen years ago, I wrote a column about the right-wing reaction to Abu Ghraib called “Defenders of the Indefensible”. It demonstrated how easily people could convince themselves that no cruelty inflicted on our enemies could ever be “too cruel” because, after all, they were our enemies.

Yesterday, on Fox News, former Trump campaignweasel Corey Lewandowski reacted to a story about a ten-year-old girl with Down’s Syndrome being separated from her mother with a sarcastic “womp womp” noise.

There’s a direct through-line from the right-wing reaction to 9/11 and the Current Atrocity. The line passes through attacks on Muslims and Sikhs, through torture, through Guantanamo, through police shootings, and through anti-immigrant fervor up to and including the Current Atrocity. And that through-line is the deliberate result of the right-wing propaganda machine.

The goal of that propaganda? To ensure that people are capable of excusing any act of cruelty, no matter how severe, no matter how unjustifiable, by giving them a reason to believe that somehow, in some small way, that person deserved it. That person is almost invariably a person of color (sometimes it’s a woman, sometimes it’s just a liberal). The cruelty inflicted on them is almost invariably institutional (but that one time it was George Zimmerman).

It’s intentional. It’s deliberate. It is the delegitimization of empathy because empathy stands in the way of amassing obscene amounts of wealth and power. It stands in the way of equality and fair treatment. In other words, it stands in the way of conservatism. And this goes for the William Kristol school of conservatism and the John McCain school of conservatism just as much as it applies to the Trump school of conservatism.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I don’t value their willingness to balk at the forced internment of immigrant children in cages months after the administration promised they’d do it, weeks after they implemented it, and days after objection to it started to gain traction. I appreciate any profile in courage, no matter how microscopic. But it’s not like any of those people gave a shit about Tamir Rice, is it? It is not.

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So, for those of you wondering “how could this happen here”, it’s the same reason any of this can happen here. The systematic desensitization of around a quarter of the population and 33%-50% of the voting population to institutional oppression and cruelty, to the extent that “Social Justice Warrior” is seen as a legitimate insult to people who are literally fighting for literal social literal justice. We do horrible things because too many of us are, or have been turned into, horrible fucking people.

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