The Poison of Islamophobia

At the Plum Line today, Paul Waldman has a useful meditation on the irrepressibly Islamophobic views of many conservative activists, including those who shout crazy things at candidates, that they may (as John McCain famously did in 2008) or may not (as Donald Trump did not this week) contradict.

This issue is personal to me. I grew up in the Jim Crow South surrounded by bigots (though not, thank God, in my immediate family). Although I never gave them encouragement, I also wasn’t exactly a profile in courage when it came to calling them out. And that silence can be habit-forming. Much more recently I was required to work with a certain Democratic operative who for all his technical virtues was privately crazy when it came to Muslims–thought they should all be expelled from the country! I may have mildly objected to his periodic explosions on the subject, but my basic reaction was to change the subject and get back to the project we were working on.

I regret that now, and realize that while I certainly do not have Donald Trump’s complicity in the climate of opinion in which anti-Muslim bigotry flourishes, we really shouldn’t tolerate this crap, which is all around us:

If you’re a regular consumer of conservative media, you’re on the receiving end of a torrent of anti-Muslim propaganda. Fox News provides a regular diet of Islamophobia, while over on CNN they offer much of the same but couched as questions instead of assertions (“Is Islam violent?”). The number two paperback nonfiction bestseller on the New York Times’ list is Glenn Beck’s “It IS About Islam,” which argues that the entire religion is at war with America. If that’s not your speed, you can pick up Ann Coulter’s “Adios, America! The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third-World Hellhole.”

Paul’s right: this stuff is so ubiquitous it’s entirely possible to stop hearing it, and us liberals are obviously less likely than, say, Donald Trump to have it shouted at us in public. But when we hear it, we should be as willing to object to it as we now are when the white supremacist bigotry of my childhood arises once again, like original sin.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.