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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fear Itself

I was thinking about the moral quandary of "Dancing with the Devil" while reading a review of a book titled "Fear Itself; The New Deal and the Dark Origins of our Time" by Ira Katznelson and reviewed by Robert G. Kaiser. That book delves into the uneasy relationship that the people pursuing the new Deal had with Southern Racists, Fascists, and the Communist Joseph Stalin. I'm not suspicious about the book because it is well researched, but it also is part of an effort to rewrite history, and is funded by people whose purpose is to defame and degrade the memory of the New Deal. It chronicles just how much liberal efforts were distorted by and clouded by racism, and the need to accommodate Southern racists such as Senator Theadore Bilbo of Mississippi, who was a particularly virulent racist. It also highlights the USA flirtation with Mussolini, and the flight of Italo Balbo across the USA in 1933. All interesting and worth reading to fill in gaps in one's general knowledge; if one also reads other sources.

The book is worth reading, but it is important to note that the alliance between liberals and populists who included deeply socially conservative Southerners, dates to Woodrow Wilson, who came to office by adopting the plank of the progressives, but also when he came to office fired black postal workers and instituted Jim Crow in the Government. The fear also dates back to before 1933, way back, and is why anti-immigration laws were enacted in 1922.

For example, our involvement in World War I didn't play on our fears of Europeans, but of Mexicans; British spies and the Anglo-American press played up hamm handed efforts by the Prussians to instigate the Mexicans to wage a third Front in the American Southwest. Our involvement in Europe was directly related to our response to Pancho Villa and his terrorist raids on the USA side of the border. And that in turn reflected "Missionary Diplomacy" and the US effort to turn the rest of the Americas into a neo-colonial zone of influence dating back to McKinley [a republican]. And probably back to our first war with Mexico in 1848. Fear has always been a bi-partisan and profitable enterprise.

Interestingly the relatively progressive reviewer thinks that Katznelson is a liberal because of some comments he made about the Taft Hartley act. This doesn't really show that Katznelson is a liberal, but it does show how dominating the debate can shift the argument. Katznelson seems liberal because we don't know our history. So this book should be read critically, but it should also be read.

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