If there was a theme that Republicans ran on during the recent election cycle , it was this: “Scary dark Muslims are sneaking across the U.S.-Mexican border and if you don’t vote for us they are going to chop your head off!” The most famous member of ISIS, the masked man who rose to fame after videotapes emerged showing him beheading Western journalists, made several cameo appearances in various GOP campaign ads. This is hardly surprising, considering a very similar theme was sounded four years ago, only then the furor was over a proposal to construct what politicians inaccurately referred to as a “Ground Zero mosque”. Muslims and nonwhite immigrants have unfortunately found themselves mercilessly scapegoated just about every campaign season since 9/11/01. On top of being singled out as a target for hate crimes and persecution by an ill-informed public, they’ve also come under severe repression and extraordinary rendition from an extremely hostile government. But concern for the safety of these constituents or potential constituents could never get in the way of conducting smear campaigns designed to win an election.
As if the narrative that hordes of Muslim immigrants are crossing into the U.S. via the Mexican border weren’t already reckless enough, why not add Ebola into the mix? That’s precisely what South Carolina’s Republican congressman Joe Wilson – the teabagger who in 2009 famously yelled “You lie!” at President Obama as he delivered an address before Congress – did in October when he invoked the baseless assertion that the Palestinian resistance group Hamas might be planning “to bring persons who have Ebola into our country“. The right-wing of American politics seems to have greeted Ebola as a god-send by politicizing it and stoking the flames of fear against any and every person traveling from anywhere on the African continent. Louisiana’s right-wing fanatic Governor Bobby Jindal brought his state shame by making his state the very first to issue a direct order for scientists and doctors trying to help contain the epidemic wreaking havoc in West Africa to “stay away.” This came right on the heels of a campaign event in Kentucky where Gov. Jindal essentially said President Obama is not “a smart man”. So quick are they to exploit every new crisis regardless of where it may be in the world that the Republicans and the corporate media in general are giving ISIS just the amount of exposure it needs to thrive.
And so, without further ado, U.S. Hypocrisy brings you ten political campaign ads made solely for the purpose of terrifying the citizenry into voting for Republicans to gain control of the House and Senate, followed by several print ads intended for the same purpose:
1. We begin with a television spot put out by the always sleazy National Republican Congressional Committee which tarnishes Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District Representative Rick Noland, a Democrat. Fortunately the ad was not successful.
2. Allen Weh campaigned as the Republican Senatorial challenger to New Mexico’s Democratic Senator Tom Udall. One of the Weh campaign’s ads features clips of ISIL terrorism, insinuating that Udall does not take the threat the group poses seriously. This is one of many ads aired during the campaign that included scenes showing the masked man from the beheading videos. A previous TV spot put out by the campaign of Republican Wendy Rogers in Arizona even featured an image of the ISIS member next to soon-to-be slain journalist James Foley. Neither Weh nor Rogers won their races however.
3. Another sleazy ad put out by the NRCC accused first-term Democratic congressman Dan Maffei of New York of trying to protect terrorists and smuggle them illegally across the border. It also hit him for “cutting funding for fighting terrorists”, which is really just code for not voting to add billions more to a military budget that is already the most-bloated in world history. The ad seems to have been beneficial to the Republicans in this case. Maffei was defeated in the November 4th election.
4. Another NRCC ad in Arizona falsely claims that terrorists are entering the U.S. by way of the Mexican border, and that Democratic congresswoman Anne Kirkpatrick “voted against securing our border”, despite the fact that under Pres. Obama more border security guards have been posted at the border than ever before. This, in spite of there having been no comprehensive immigration reform bill passed. Kirkpatrick did not go down to defeat in the election.
5. GOP candidate Ed Gillespie had just one important question for Virginia’s Democratic Senator Mark Warner: “Why won’t Warner fight the anti-r***kins bill?”
6. Neel Kashkari, the Republican challenger to California’s Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, wasn’t able to save his fledgling campaign in time for the election. But if this ad is anything to go by, he’ll always be there to give our kids a helping hand when they’re drowning.
7. Texas state Senator Dan Patrick shows he knows his state well in an ad put out to smear his Democratic opponent for lieutenant governor by accusing her of everything from leaving the border unattended while “ISIS terrorists threaten to cross our border and kill Americans” to “sending millions to Central American governments”. Is this the meaning of “Southern hospitality”?
When it came to protecting the seat held by Republican Congressman Lee Terry of Nebraska’s 2nd District, the GOP showed there was no limit to how low down and dirty they were willing to get. Terry ran a disgraceful campaign that relied exclusively on keeping his constituents terrified of what would happen if the Democratic challenger, Brad Ashford, were elected.
8. One of the first ads attempting to smear Brad Ashford was put out by the RNCC. It was an appeal to paranoia and prejudice, opening with the words: “The world’s on fire. Bad guys everywhere. Killings on our streets. beheadings abroad.”:
9. In a sign of increased desperation, Rep. Terry resorted to a tactic he pulled right out of the Lee Atwater/ Karl Rove playbook. They resurrected the infamous Willie Horton ad that worked so well for the George H.W. Bush presidential campaign of 1988.
The ad has been described as a “Hail Mary” for the incumbent, GOP Rep. Lee Terry, who is currently down in the polls. In essence, when in doubt and down in the polls, just put the image of a scary Black man out and watch your numbers rise at the same level of White anxiety.
10. The award for most ridiculous and possibly most racist ad goes to tea party-backed Nevada District 1 congressional candidate Kamau Bakari featuring everyone’s favorite rancher, Cliven Bundy. I suppose that because Bakari is himself an African American it’s supposed to add legitimacy to the dialogue Bundy and the candidate engage in. Over the course of the ad the two men reiterate and endorse the most common stereotypes and misconceptions white people have about Black Americans. The most cringe-worthy line in the 2 minute ad, and there are many, is when Mr. Bakari says to Mr. Bundy, “A great white man like you might be just what we need…” followed by Bundy’s assertion that “it’s almost like black folks think white folks owe them something.” On election day, Bakari ended up with a whopping 2% in the popular vote total.
In a series of mailers sent out by the Republican Party of Kentucky to voters in District 12, Democratic State House Representative Jim Gooch is accused of wanting “to give illegals a license to drive”, juxtaposed next to an image of ISIS group members driving SUVs:
And if the message wasn’t clear enough, they sent out another even less subtle one just in case:
Of course it wouldn’t be an election year without the NRA trying to scare white people not only into buying more and more guns, but also into voting Republican. Despite gun laws being more lax than ever before, the National Rifle Association’s official American Hunter magazine cover wants to inform readers that “only pro-gun candidates can confront Obama’s last two years.” Guns-everywhere advocates have not been confronted with any additional restrictions on their “2nd amendment liberties” during the entire six years of the Obama administration. If anything, his two terms have proved to be a boost for gun and ammo manufacturers everywhere, as they have capitalized on the fear a Black President instilled in some sectors of the population.
“ISIL gets their message out, and they want to be talked about. They want to be turned into a group that strikes fear into the hearts of the American people. And inadvertently, that’s exactly what the Republicans are doing.”
They “risk glamorizing the very actors they are ostensibly seeking to undermine while their reactionary policies play into the hands of the enemy.” The effect on the American public’s position when it comes to overseas involvement has shifted dramatically since video scenes purporting to show the beheading of Western journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff started airing around the clock on all major news networks in the U.S. As Alec Tyson of Pew Research has observed, “ISIL has driven a shift in Americans’ views on how directly engaged the U.S. should be in world affairs.” This is undoubtedly exactly what the group had in mind, and the conductors of the U.S. War Machine have been all too eager to play directly into their hands.