Saturday, March 17, 2012

The cost of scapegoating

A good quote from "Since Yesterday" (emphasis mine),
A good deal of the bitter anti-Roosevelt talk could not, of course, be taken at its face value.  Often it was a form of conscious self-indulgence in the emotional satisfaction of blaming a personal scapegoat for everything that went wrong.  When, as in a New Yorker cartoon, a group of ladies and gentlemen sallied forth to the trans-lux theatre "to hiss Roosevelt," they enjoyed the sort of release that many liberals had enjoyed when they blamed all the ills of the economic system on the personal wickedness of bankers, or that Nazis enjoyed when they blamed all the ills of Germany on the Jews.  To find a scapegoat is to be spared, for the moment, any necessity for further examination of the facts or for further thought.

Yet to the extent that it stopped factual inquiry and thought, the Roosevelt-hating was costly, not only to the recovery, but to the haters themselves.  Because as a group (there were many exceptions) the well-to-do regarded the presence of Roosevelt in the White House as a sufficient explanation for all that was amiss and as sufficient excuse for not taking a more active part in new investment, they inevitably lost prestige among the less fortunate.  For the rich and powerful could maintain their prestige only by giving the general public what it wanted.  It wanted prosperity, economic expansion.  It had always been ready to forgive all manner of deficiencies in the Henry Fords who actually produced the goods, whether or not they made millions in the process.  But it was not disposed to sympathize unduly with people who failed to produce goods, no matter how heart-rending their explanations for their failure.  Roosevelt-hating thrust the owners and managers of business into inaction--into trying to resist the tide of affairs, to set back the clock.  It made them conservatives in the sense that they were trying to hold on to old things, whereas before 1929 they had been, in their own way, innovators, bringers of new things.  It made them, as a group, sterile.  And they were soon to learn that sterility does not stir public applause.
I think this says a lot about right wing politics today...  especially the word "sterile."

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