There’s a sick mentality in the world that demands scapegoats and feeds witch hunts.
“Scapegoating is the practice of singling out any party for unmerited negative treatment or blame. A scapegoat may be a child, employee, peer, ethnic or religious group, or country,” reports Wikipedia.
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, one of the most famous short stories ever written, reveals the evils of village scapegoating.
The village has an annual lottery resulting in the winner being stoned to death. Explaining what she hoped the story would convey, Shirley Jackson said:
“I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village, to shock the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.”
Pointless violence and general inhumanity still reign supreme in tribes, villages, countries and the world.
They function in part on established ritual. Often, the only thing required to enshrine a new scapegoat is a compulsive need for someone to despise.
It doesn’t matter who wins the lottery; and it makes no difference what happens to the winner. The winner is always the loser.
If it happens that the chosen scapegoat has multiple numbers, the next step can become a witch hunt.
The term “witch-hunt” since the 1930s has been used as a metaphor to refer to moral panics in general (frantic persecution of perceived enemies).
Wikipedia points out that “This usage is especially associated with the Second Red Scare of the 1950s (the McCarthyist persecution of communists in the United States).”
That brings us to the present and US Congressman Peter King. As chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, King is holding hearings to investigate the domestic threat of what he calls the “radicalization of the American Muslim community.”
King apparently decided that Islam is to be the scapegoat for America’s ills; and he is now on a witch hunt for Muslims to burn. King’s anti-Islamic bias discredits him as a bigot.
According to the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, “King once complained that ‘we have too many mosques in this country’ (USA), and on another occasion offered the ludicrous opinion that ’80 to 85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists.’ His claim to be free of anti-Muslim bias lacks credibility.”
That’s putting it mildly. Adding to his statement about 85 percent of the mosques in the US being controlled by Muslim extremists, King told Sean Hannity of Fox News, that they make up “an enemy living amongst us.”
Not only have mosques coloured King’s bigotry. He complained that “There are too many people sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully and finding out how we can infiltrate them.”
King has accused Muslims of failing to help expose terrorist plots in America. This is patently untrue, as Charles Kurzman, University of North Carolina terrorist expert reveals:
“…in exposing alleged terrorist plots, the largest single source of initial information (48 of 120 cases) involved tips from the Muslim American community.”
If King had a serious concern about a lack of Muslim cooperation with authorities, he would have invited Muslim leaders to his hearings. He has invited only one.
He should have invited law enforcement officials to corroborate or correct the biased figures he has been spouting. He did not.
Witch hunts like King’s do nothing to increase security. They feed fear and breed hatred. According to a Time magazine poll, 43 percent of Americans view Muslims negatively.
Scapegoating and witch hunts have always been pointless, inhumane activities.
* Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. He’s a weekly Op-Ed columnist for the Gulf Daily News. Dr. Balles is also Editorial Consultant for Red House Marketing and a regular contributor to Bahrain This Month.